Today was a long day of travel, from Tampa, Florida to Panama City, Panama, then on to Lima, Peru. I love to travel, but on a cloudy day like today – when I couldn’t even make out the Panama Canal (some of the container ship traffic waiting in the Pacific, though!) – there’s little real joy in the seemingly endless hours of flying.
En route, I took some time to read yet another book on the Inca. They’re an incredible civilization, so distinct and foreign from any Old World civilization in the way that they see the world. They’re endlessly fascinating to me of late, and that’s a large part of the reason why Peru was so high on my list to visit, why I applied for the grant that is paying for so much of this expedition, and so on.
Anyway, so many of these books on the Inca start the same way naturally enough, I suppose, with the beginning of written history in the Inca world. That is, with the arrival of the Spanish. Francisco Pizarro and his crew of some 150 men – including Hernando de Soto, a hothead who had spent some time exploring Florida – set out from Panama, the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, with the express intent of conquering the Inca, about whom they knew nothing more than that they existed and that they were wealthy.
So today, arcing through the sky at 40,000 feet in a Boeing 737, a jet-propelled invention that would have been as incomprehensible to both the Spanish and the Inca as they must honestly have been to each other, I was retracing almost mile for mile path of the conquistadors.
But unlike those men, I come in peace. To listen to what the Inca have to say through their artifacts, their ruins, and their legacy, and hopefully to understand.
Anyway, I had a lot of time to think today and not a lot of action. The most incredible thing was when the clouds finally broke. I woke up from a late afternoon nap to see the Andes laid out below.
Jasmine and I are safe and sound in Lima now. We had dinner looking out over the Pacific Ocean, which is just a few blocks from the guy playing Metallica songs on his guitar in the hallway of our hostel.
Everything is better than ok.
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